Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unrest in Chile

When one go higher up, he is always liable to fall very rapidly. The President of Chile, Sebastian Piñera is now experiencing such a plunge.

He is almost totally to be blamed for his own plight. When he won the presidential election narrowly, it was taken as a rare incident where the left wing of Latin American country suffered an electoral defeat in recent years. Later, when 33 miners were miraculously rescued, his popularity rose to more than 60%, an all time high up to date. But, his popularity has now reached its lowest ever to date, dangerously approaching the 30% mark.
The main reasons for this fall of grace is the proposed HidroAysén electricity scheme, by which five dams are to be constructed across two rivers, two on Baker river and three on Pascua river, in the pristine wilderness of Patagonia. This will flood 5,900 hectares of nature reserve. The government gave approval for the project in May 2011 but thereafter has been challenged by massive protests against the scheme.

The president is not a consensus builder like his predecessor, the popular Michelle Bachelet. He was known as a business tycoon before coming to politics and is known for the centralized decision making and his ministers have little power. In such an administration, the leader gets all the credit when everything goes right. But when it goes wrong, he must bear the blame also.

This is what is happening to Piñera today. The president is accused by some for being too close to the company which is engaged in the scheme. Even though the environmental impact is the major concern of the protestors, it is not the only case. The monopolistic power exerted by the energy companies has also been a cause of debate.

Along with this, the ongoing student protests are also a concern for Chile. This is to demand the end of the schools voucher system and to establish a proper public education system. The president's offers have not been able to mollify the students and the crisis continues with no agreement forthcoming.

With things standing as such, politics in Chile is turbulent to say the least.

Photo: River Baker

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